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An attractive rural property for sale at a price that seems too good to be true can seem like an unexpected bargain, until you find out it comes with an agricultural occupancy condition, more commonly known as an ‘agricultural tie’.

Historically an agricultural tie was put in place as a planning condition to ensure that a property could only be occupied by someone who was “wholly or primarily occupied in agriculture or forestry” – the aim being to ensure rural housing was affordable for agricultural workers. Agricultural ties are still imposed today often as a way of allowing houses to be built in a rural locality which otherwise would not be permitted.

Potential problem for both buyers and sellers

A buyer should carefully check as to whether there is an agricultural tie in place as they could be buying a property that they are unable to use due to a breach of planning. From a seller’s perspective, not only may the property be worth a lot less with an agricultural tie in place, but in addition, many prospective purchasers may be put off due to the restriction being in place.

Can an agricultural tie be removed?

It is important to realise that removing an agricultural tie is not a straightforward process. This needs careful consideration and professional advice, but broadly there are two routes that can be pursued.

The first option is to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development which would need to show that there have been at least 10 years of uninterrupted use in breach of the agricultural tie. This would not remove the tie permanently but would act as a certificate to say that the current use is lawful. The tie could, however, be reinstated if say an agricultural worker moved in who complies with the conditions of the tie. If a certificate is issued, then sometimes depending on the circumstances the council may remove the tie.

The second option would be to apply to have the agricultural tie removed, but this can be a complex process and would involve showing beyond doubt that the property is no longer needed for agricultural workers. Often this would require a seller to market a property for a set period at the lower price determined by the existence of the tie to ensure that there are no potential buyers who fit the requirements of the tie.

Property on agricultural land can prove very attractive for several reasons, such as location, lack of immediate neighbours and an opportunity to add value by modernising the building, but as this area of law is complex, we do recommend you speak to a specialist agricultural property lawyer before making any financial commitments.

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